Legal intrigues over collapsed 21-storey building

Posted by News Express | 24 August 2022 | 363 times

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•The collapsed building on Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos


The last may not have been heard from the Fourscore Heights 21-storey building on Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos that claimed about 50 lives, including the promoter, Femi Osibona, last year. Following the outcry by the public, the Lagos State Government set up a panel headed by a former Commissioner for Physical Planning & Urban Development and President, Nigeria Institute of Town Planning (NITP), Toyin Ayinde.
The panel has submitted its report but some investors in the luxury apartments have taken the government to court for not taking their investment into consideration in the implementation of the recommendation and claiming damages. 
The six-­man panel headed by its Chairman, Toyin Ayinde,  had a mandate: probe the causes of the 21-storey building  that collapsed last year on Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.

Its terms of reference included ascertaining whether there was a compromise of building codes by the developer, his contractor and regulatory agencies.

Expectedly, the panel did its brief and submitted its report. But a set of investors has gone to court to claim damages based on their investments. They were dissatisfied that rather than compensating those who lost their investments in the collapsed building, the government acquired the land and left the investors in the cold.

Fifteen of the investors have sued the state government over the collapsed high-rise, which led to the death of over 50 persons.

The late developer was known to play in the big league and had wealthy clientele who invested in his dream. They sued the government seeking compensation for their lost investment given that the state government had acquired the land. They also claimed that they were not considered in the implementation of the six-man panel recommendation. Investment by private participants in the building was said to be about N15 billion.

The writ of summons dated August 12, this year, and marked Suit No LD/3962LM/22, was filed on behalf of 15 subscribers by A.U. Mustapha, a senior lawyer, before a Lagos State High Court.

The defendants are Lagos State Governor, the Attorney-General of Lagos, the state Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) and Edge of Design Limited.

The claimants are seeking damages of N200 million and another N50 million as the cost of filing the suit.

They are asking the court to declare, among things, that: the agreements between Fourscore Heights Limited and each of the claimants to acquire units of flats, with considerations paid, entitle the claimants to rights and interests in the other two towers at 44BCD, Gerrard Road, Ikoyi;

the first, second, third and fourth defendants were negligent in the performance of their duties by failing and/or neglecting to supervise the construction of one of the three towers;
that the defendants could not benefit from their negligence by compulsorily, wrongfully, illegally and punitively acquiring or threatening to acquire the property through forfeiture and/or purported forfeiture to the state government following the collapse of one of the towers;
any demolition of the other towers when independent evidence of a test results has not been produced will adversely affect the equitable interests of the claimants in the said properties;
the claimants’ equitable interests in the property could not be expropriated and/or divested by the government of the state or any of its agencies; and
the the “overt move” and the action taken and being embarked and contemplated to be embarked upon to demolish or preparing to demolish the structures of Towers 2 and 3 of the property is a violation of the claimants’ right.

The claimants are seeking an order restraining the defendants from trespassing, demolishing the properties known as Tower 2 and Tower 3 until an independent audit of the property is carried out by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).

They are also seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from disturbing, interfering with, taking, receiving or in any way taking possession of, demolishing, divesting and/or revoking the title, disposing of all or any part of the property, landed or otherwise.

The claimants have applied to the judge to grant an ex-parte motion during the court’s annual vacation.

It will be recalled that COREN had accused the contractor of hiding information at the inquest.

The council’s Head of Lagos Liaison Office, Mr. TomideAkinnawo, submitted the report at the inquest.

The coroner, Mr. Oyetade Komolafe, who commended the report, described it as detailed and requested that additional two copies should be submitted to the inquest.

Akinnawo told the coroner: “The contractor did not give an address and phone number. It is inappropriate, the project board hid a lot of sensitive and important information.’’

The engineer said it was the responsibility of supervisory government agencies to point out the breach when they visited the site.

He further said the contractor or the client needed to have been sanctioned by the state development control bodies because information on the project board was not detailed.

The witness said the panel was not granted access to the site until the coroner ordered the access.

On whether the landmass of the site was large enough to accommodate the four structures, Akinnawo said the contractor of the project breached town planning regulations, adding that the entrance to the site was also not appropriate for the magnitude of the structures.

Under cross-examination by counsel for Beyond Design Limited, Mr. Oluwamayokun David, Akinnawo said he first heard of Fourscore Heights after the building collapsed, adding that COREN was unable to find employees of the company to interview during the investigation. (Nation)

Source: News Express

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